Park University’s Black History Month Lecture to Feature Discussion on Park Alumnus and WWI Hero

Monday, February 1, 2016

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A dialogue about the role a Park University alumnus and World War I hero played with the white-led, mostly black 369th Regiment of New York will be presented on Monday, Feb. 29, as part of the University’s 15th annual Spencer Cave Black History Month Lecture.

The lecture, “George S. Robb: From Salina, Kan., to Park University to Pershing’s 100 Heroes of the War,” will be held at The National World War I Museum and Memorial, 100 W. 26th St., Kansas City, Mo., starting at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are requested through the museum at https://www.theworldwar.org/visit/upcoming-events.

Dr. Jeffrey SammonsMuch is known about Robb (1887-1972), a 1912 Park graduate, World War I hero, Medal of Honor recipient (in 1919) and a long-serving government official in his home state of Kansas (he served as state auditor from 1935-61). Based on largely untapped primary sources at the Kansas State Archives and the Federal Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, historian Jeffrey T. Sammons, Ph.D. (adjacent photo), will share a much more nuanced and multidimensional rendering of Robb. Sammons’ discussion will cover Robb’s years at Park University to his tenure as a teacher at Columbia University, participation at the Second Fort Sheridan (Ill.) Officer Training Camp, assignment with the white-led, mostly black 369th Regiment of New York and life as a celebrity long after the war.

As a prolific letter writer and speech giver, Robb left remarkable insights about his politics, familial relations, views on race and sense of humor, including a keen eye for the opposite sex. What is most remarkable about his documentary record, however, is how some of it contributes most significantly to a campaign in which Sammons is engaged to right the wrongs inflicted on the black soldier with whom Robb served and led. The talk will reveal the details of that campaign and Robb’s critical role in it, albeit from the grave, proving that the deceased have much of value to say about themselves and others.

Sammons is a professor of history at New York University, where he has taught since 1989. Sammons, whose areas of research/interest include U. S. social and cultural history, African-American history, military history, black autobiography, film history and sports history, earned his doctorate degree in American history from the University of North Carolina, a master’s degree in history from Tufts University and a bachelor’s degree in history from Rutgers University.

In 1987, Sammons was named a Henry Rutgers Research Fellow at Rutgers University-Camden, and completed a critically acclaimed book, Beyond the Ring: The Role of Boxing in American Society. In 2001, Sammons was awarded a fellowship by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and History and soon after received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for 2002-03 in support of his recently published Harlem’s Rattlers and the Great War: The Undaunted 369th Regiment and the Quest for African-American Equality (University Press of Kansas, April 2014).

Sammons has written widely on the subject of sport and race, and has participated in and consulted on numerous documentary projects with independent filmmakers and television networks. He is deeply involved in efforts to collect, preserve and present that which relates to the African-American experience in golf, and in March 2013, his efforts paid large dividends with the induction of Jimmie Devoe into the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame.